The Right Culture for Community

We surveyed people who had left group life for whatever reason. We found a large number reported they would be willing to come back to a group, but they wanted more than just a weekly study. This indicates that their last group didn’t deliver what they were expecting. They expected more than a study, but what they got was a study. This is why over the last 20 years some of the group gurus emphasized the importance of relationships and shepherds. People who are doing life together aren’t just going to group once a week; they are connecting throughout the week. They go out to movies and have dinner together. The group meeting is just one of the things they do. They also do life together and wrestle with tough questions.

The group meeting is simply the time they gather. They are in community all week long. Community is not just Monday or Tuesday night for two hours; it is every day.

At Grace Church, the church where I pastor, the groups emphasize the 1-4-1 rhythm of community each month:

1 Social Activity

4 Group Meetings

1 Service Activity

That’s the type of group we long to see in churches. If people are not experiencing this type of connection, they’re fooling themselves with a false sense of community. If they are just going to church, watching the show, sitting there in rows and facing forward like mindless automatons, they are missing community. The end result is that they are not experiencing the spiritual growth God has for them. The research is telling us that people want relationships and they’re not getting them.  

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Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., is the Dean of Talbot School of Theology at Biola Univeristy and Scholar in Residence & Teaching Pastor at Mariners Church. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches; trained pastors and church planters on six continents; earned two master’s degrees and two doctorates; and has written hundreds of articles and a dozen books. He is Regional Director for Lausanne North America, is the Editor-in-Chief of Outreach Magazine, and regularly writes for news outlets such as USA Today and CNN. Dr. Stetzer is the host of "The Stetzer ChurchLeaders Podcast," and his national radio show, "Ed Stetzer Live," airs Saturdays on Moody Radio and affiliates.